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The Silver Thistle Award is the highest honor granted by the Nevada Society of Scottish Clans and the recipient is known as, “Scot of the Year.”  This prestigious award recognizes Americans of Scottish heritage for their outstanding service to the people and communities of northern Nevada and northeast California through significant contributions to business, medicine, education, fine arts and/or philanthropy. The person must be a permanent resident of northern Nevada or northeast California, and need not be a member of the Society.

Scot of the Year
Paul McFarlane - 2023

Paul McFarlane is a renowned educator and innovator of STEM education in northern Nevada, and he has devoted his career to science, astronomy, space exploration and ensuring availability of STEM opportunities. He has conducted many student/adult Cultural Tours to the UK, teaching and perpetuating its history, particularly of his ancestral country, Scotland. Paul has served in many capacities and most recently as Director of the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. Here he is inspiring students to pursue science-based education and STEM careers. Under his leadership, the Planetarium has undergone an organizational shift, bringing it into the College of Science. He led a recent, extensive upgrade of its technology to the most advanced astronomy simulation software in the world. During Covid, Paul integrated robotically-controlled telescopes into onsite and online programs, becoming the first planetarium in the world to partner with Slooh’s international telescopes. This allowed the Planetarium and its participants, joining around the world, to control telescopes and explore the universe from their homes. As Director, Paul loves sharing the sky and stars, as well as poems and stories about the stars, some even written in Scots dialect, in the style of Robert Burns himself. Paul has taught students for more than 30 years (WCSD kindergarten-high school, and college); served as a volunteer and board member of various nonprofits, including Reno Film Festival and Pathways to Aviation; and founded the Lumière All-School Film Festival and Sci-On! International Film Festival. Distinctions are many, from Reno Gazette-Journal Outstanding 11th Grade Teacher to a UNR Herz Gold Medal. Education includes Bachelor of Arts, College of Arts and Science, UNR; Graduate Coursework in Astronomy and Earth and Space Sciences, UNR and University of Huntsville, AL; Astronautics and Space Science Training at Space Center Houston, Kennedy Space Center and US Space and Rocket Center; and studies at the University of London, and Oxford and Cambridge Universities, when he fell in love with Scotland.

Courtney Meredith - 2022

Courtney Meredith is a descendant of Clan Scott and she proudly wears the Scott tartan in memory of her ancestors and in honor of her father. She is a wife, mother, first-generation native Nevadan, and CEO and Senior Design Strategist for Design on the Edge, a Reno-based, family-owned design firm that she co-founded with her husband Chris. Courtney is also a partner in Weird Reno, which offers historical walking tours. Over the past 23 years of her career, Courtney and her agency have received more than 52 awards for graphic design, marketing and business on a local, regional and national level. Awards include recognition as Creative Advocate of the Year, Public Relations Specialist of the Year, Top 150 of Reno's Influential Community Members, Advertising Person of the Year, Irish Person of the Year, Girl Scouts Community Mentor of the Year, 20 Under 40 nominee, Top Influential Woman nominee, Leaders to Know nominee, EDAWN Person of the Year nominee, the Most Innovative Company in northern Nevada and Top Small Family-owned Businesses in Nevada.  Most recently, Courtney was recognized as Promotional Person of the Year by the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation for her outstanding personal and corporate contributions to the community during the 2020 pandemic. Awards have also been received from the Nevada Press Association, American Marketing Association, Graphic Design USA Magazine, WIN, Nevada Economic Development and the American Advertising Federation.  Courtney actively assists in revitalizing the downtown corridor and supports small businesses, startups and community-focused nonprofits. In 2013, she co-wrote and published the first pictorial manuscript on the history of the Reno Riverwalk District. Courtney's experience also spans political campaigns, sign development, casino and hospitality marketing, and large-scale special event development. Committed to strategizing and developing leading brands, Courtney works selflessly behind the scenes to ensure her client's brands and events thrive. She works day and night, pulling 18-hour shifts to make sure quality is achieved with every task. Courtney also devotes her talents and time to fellow entrepreneurs and students, and she is dedicated to her peers and ensuring equality in the marketplace.

Christy McGill - 2020

Christy McGill has over 18 years of experience in community organizing, community positive change, and grass roots initiatives that use collective impact strategies. In her current role within the Nevada Department of Education, Ms. McGill provides all guidance, direction and oversight of the Office of Safe and Respectful Learning Environment’s projects of school safety, behavioral health, and school climate through-out the 17 Nevada school districts and 120 charter schools. Ms. McGill has several publications about community and school-based collective impact projects and her Rural Health Hub project was awarded runner-up in the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize in Lyon County Nevada.


Dr. Kristen MacLeod - 2019  

Dr. Kristen MacLeod has Scottish heritage on both her mother’s and father’s sides. She grew up playing the bagpipes chanter, proudly wearing her MacLeod tartans, and attending several Clan gatherings at Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, where she joined other MacLeod youths from all over the world, doing work on the castle grounds and attending the celebrations. Dr. MacLeod is a graduate of Princeton University and attended medical school at Tufts University in Boston. After graduating, she went to UC Davis for her residency in Pediatrics and a subsequent fellowship in Child Abuse Pediatrics. During her fellowship, her research focused on both the effects of domestic violence on children and the use of telehealth to provide child and teen victims of sexual assault with access to critical specialty medical and forensic exams. As a Child Abuse fellow, she joined UC Davis in implementing the first real-time assistance telemedicine program for victims of child and teen sexual assault in the rural counties of northern California. Kristi took that knowledge and with the help of the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services, began to assist in improving access to specialized medical care for suspected victims of child abuse and neglect living in our rural areas. She assisted with the development of the first child abuse telemedicine program in Nevada, serving as the Medical Director of Elko County’s Great Basin Child Advocacy Center’s child sexual assault program from 2011-2017. She served as Medical Director of the Washoe County child sexual assault program from January 2011 through June 2018. In 2013, she was appointed to the Governor’s Special Task Force on the prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, resulting in the passage of Nevada’s first child safety curriculum bill for grades K-12 in May 2015 and helping to keep all of Nevada’s children safe from child sexual abuse.


Al McNeil - 2018

Al McNeil enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after graduating from high school, and faithfully served his country for almost 21 years. During his military career, Al served as a signal intelligence intercept operator with overseas tours targeting the former Soviet Union and the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. He gained counter-narcotics knowledge by working with Thailand's Marine Corps in the opium drug trade, and with the Peruvian Marine Corps’ fight against the Sendero Luminoso. Al was a platoon commander and a platoon sergeant during three overseas deployments and participated in the rescue of downed Air Force pilot Captain Scott O'Grady in Bosnia in 1995. After being promoted to Master Sergeant, he was assigned as the Operations Chief for 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit stationed in Japan, where he helped develop operational planning for 2,200 Marines and Sailors. Upon return to the United States, Al was assigned as the Operations Chief for the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. He oversaw the organizational planning of nine formal schools, 76 instructors, and the training of 12,000 students annually. Al retired from the Marine Corps in 2002 and moved to Lyon County where he began working for the Lyon County Sheriff's Office as a Deputy Sheriff. It was during these "retirement" years that Al began a quest for all things Scottish. He taught himself the bagpipes and sought out his Scottish ancestry after a trip to Scotland in 2010. Al is an active member of the Scottish American Military Society, representing the organization through many activities and functions including playing the bagpipes for the Northern Nevada Veteran's Coalition and its monthly ceremony at the Northern Nevada Veteran's Cemetery in Fernley, as well as all veteran burial requests in Mason and Smith Valleys. Al is a member of the Mason Valley Pipes and Drums. In November 2014, Al was elected as Lyon County's 20th sheriff. In Al’s term as sheriff, Lyon County went from one of the five least safe counties in Nevada, to one of the five safest. Al holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Business Administration of Criminal Justice, and Religion. He is a member of the Clan MacNeil Association of America and published an article on the Second Amendment’s ties back to United States’ Founding Fathers of Scottish heritage.


Brett Palmer - 2017

Brett Palmer of Clan Scott ancestry joined the Marine Corps immediately after high school, but his tour was cut short by an injury.  A couple of years later he began a 36-year career in law enforcement.  He served in Idaho and Utah before being hired by the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office in Nevada where he served 18 years in Fernley.  After retiring from the Sheriff’s Office in 2008, he became president of the Nevada Veteran’s Coalition that supports and provides services to the Northern Nevada Memorial Cemetery near Fernley.  As president Brett formed an Honor Guard for all veteran interments in the memorial cemetery.  The unit provides about 300 military honor style burial services annually.  Brett coordinates the Coalition’s Memorial Day activities, laying of wreaths in December, and the interment of unaccompanied or unclaimed remains.  He coordinates the Coalition’s participation in the Certified Nevada Veteran Advocate program that provides guidance to Nevada’s veterans and directs the Coalition’s Heroes Hand Up House in Fernley, a program he created, that provides temporary housing for deserving veterans and their families in transition from the military to civilian life.


Roger Settlemire - 2016

Roger served in the U.S. Air Force where he was assigned to the Intelligence section with a “Top Secret” security clearance. Following military service, he earned a law degree from the University Of California School Of Law in Los Angeles. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in January 1961, then practiced law in Chico and Chester, California, from 1961 to 1983. During this period, he was elected Judge for the Almanor Justice Court in Plumas County, California, in 1976 and Judge of the consolidated Plumas Justice Court in 1983. After six years with the Justice Court, he was elected Judge of the Superior Court of California for Plumas County in 1989, where he served until 1999.  Throughout the years Roger has been a major supporter of his community with special emphasis on Feather River College, the Plumas District Hospital and the arts in Plumas County. After a 38-year career in the law, Roger’s retirement allowed him to pursue his interest in genealogy. He has made several trips to Scotland and Ireland, tracing his Scottish ancestors (clans Campbell and Marr) from Scotland to Ireland and on to the frontiers of North America in the 1700s. He was instrumental in developing the Sierra Plumas Chapter of the Nevada Society of Scottish Clans. Roger helped host the Society’s open houses for members of that community; and has hosted the Society’s participation in the Graeagle Independence Day celebration. 


Dean McKay - 2015

Dean McKay, the recipient of the Society’s 2015 Silver Thistle Award, is a businessman with more than 40 years of experience leading technology companies. He has been a systems engineer, business executive, college professor, entrepreneur, management guru and author. He started designing complex engineering systems early in his career which led him to NASA in the 1960s where he worked on the Saturn rocket and the Apollo project to send an astronaut to the moon. The Tahoe/Truckee Meadows area has been his home since 1989, and he is now deeply entrenched in the regional business community. Currently, he is the CEO of Cirrus Systems, a Sparks company that provides software and hardware services to improve business operations. The company recently developed a real-time traffic control system that manages the movement of heavy load trucks in and out of open pit mines improving safety.  He brings his experience to the Board of Directors of Haws Corps., the Board of Advisors for the Department of Computer Sciences at UNR; and the Board of Visitors for the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. He volunteers for the Environmental Center at UC Davis, and co-found J V K Cellars, a niche winery.


Dr. Bruce Douglas - 2014

Dr. Bruce Douglas of Clan Douglas was honored as the 2014 recipient of the Silver Thistle “Scot of the Year” Award.  Dr. Douglas is a third great grandson of John Douglas who emigrated from Scotland to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1815 and was a pioneer founder of Caledonia, Nova Scotia in 1817.  He has been a Reno resident since 1964.  Dr. Douglas is retired from UNR where he served as Professor of Civil Engineering, Chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering, and Director of the Center for Civil Engineering Earthquake Research at the University of Nevada.   It was under his leadership that the Center developed a nationally recognized earthquake simulation laboratory with a focus on improving the earthquake resistance of bridge structures.  It was the first laboratory of its kind.  The RGJ recently reported it as “one of the world’s most well-regarded seismic labs.  Dr. Douglas, in the early years of the Sierra Highlanders Pipe Band, was one of their pipers.  In his retirement years created the “Single Malt Scotch Tasters of Reno”.


Jackie L. Frady - 2013

Jackie L. Frady was honored at the 32nd Annual Nevada Society of Scottish Clans Robert Burns Celebration on Saturday, January 26, as the 2013 recipient of the Silver Thistle “Scot of the Year” Award. Jackie is President and Executive Director of the National Automobile Museum, The Harrah Collection, which was recently named “One of America’s Five Greatest Automobile Museums.” During her tenure as Executive Director since 1992 she was able to raise awareness of the museum that culminated in the retirement of a huge construction debt. She is a proud northern Nevada resident who has enriched the lives of many through her activities at the museum. Her 30-year career in the collector car arena was celebrated in 2011 by Reno Magazine in a cover story, “Driven to Success” and in a “Captains of Industry” feature by the Reno Gazette-Journal. In 2012, Jackie was featured on KTVN in “Someone 2 Know,” which recapped her career and influence as a leader and professional, and as a woman who helped pave the way for other ladies in an industry once driven by men.  She is editor and author of two books published by the museum, including Against All Odds about the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race, and the museum’s award-winning magazine, Precious Metal. Jackie has served as president of an impressive list of organizations important to automobile culture and history, and currently serves as President of the National Association of Automobile Museums. For the past 17 years, she has served as an Honorary Judge at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, among the “Who’s Who” of the world-wide automotive industry, and one of only a couple of women to serve in this capacity. Jackie is also President of the Washoe Zephyrs Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association, and has been named “Businesswoman of the Year” in 1989, 1993, and again in 2012.  Committed to education, under Jackie’s leadership the museum has produced a series of History Symposiums since 1996 which have all been funded by grants from Nevada Humanities and approved by the Nevada Department of Education for teachers to receive in-service credit. Student programming has been a significant facet of the museum, ranging from student field trips teaching about the automobile’s important place in American history to safe “Trick or Treat” programs. Additionally, she has been a technical advisor to the Comstock Fire Museum in Virginia City, and the Off-Road Motor Sports Hall of Fame.


"Uncle" Mike McElfish - 2012

Mike McElfish, a resident of Carson City, formed Save a Soldier's Life in 2007 after learning of the death of his nephew CWO Joshua Robert Rodgers who was killed when his Chinook helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan on May 30, 2007.  “Uncle Mike”, (as he has come to be called by family and friends), took the death especially hard because as he learned the details of the horrific incident it became clear to him that the soldiers on board the Chinook could not return fire for fear of giving away their exact position by the flashes from the muzzles of their weapons. He came to the realization that he, as a machinist, could do something to help see that our military could fire without the telltale muzzle flash if they were equipped with flash suppressors for their rifles.  Mike founded Smith Enterprises a company that manufactures the Vortex Flash Suppressor and entered into an agreement with them that he would machine the blanks for the suppressors and ship them to Smith for the proprietary or patented part of the manufacturing process. In return Smith would give Mike the suppressors at a greatly reduced price. Mike would then offer them at no cost to combat units in war zones.  He and his wife are responsible for a weekly event in Carson City. Red Shirt Walk it is a group of people who walk two miles through downtown Carson City every Friday evening wearing red shirts and carrying flags. The group walks to show support for troops currently serving and recognize veterans.  They are often joined by the families of other fallen soldiers.  Mike's devotion to the safety of our military serving in combat zones and his heartfelt support of those who currently serve and have served in the past and especially to those who have given their lives in defense of our Country makes him a prime candidate to receive the Society's Scot of the Year Award.


John Alexander - 2011

The 2011 recipient of Nevada Society of Scottish Clans’ Silver Thistle Award as Scot of the Year is John Alexander of Dayton, Nevada.  John was born in Gooding, Idaho on Robert Burns’ birthday and has traced his Scottish heritage on both sides of his family to clans Turnbull and Alexander.  After 24 years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, he retired in 1983 as a Physician’s Assistant.  After settling in Nevada, he spearheaded a humanitarian effort for the residents of the Dayton/Silver Springs area to replace an old medical care mobile home with a substantial new building.  His favorite community activity is mentoring boys in Troop 100 of the Boy Scouts of America in Dayton.  When he discovered that many families in Lyon County were going without heat, he single-handedly organized a set of volunteers for a nearly winter long mission to cut firewood for these families.  His efforts heated the homes of 30 families, mainly of who were elderly or disabled.  As Christy McGill wrote in her nomination letter, “No tax dollars were used, just . . . determination.  She further wrote that, “He is an amazing role model to our community and evidence that when hard work and honor come together, solutions can be found.


Charles “Chip” MacLeod – 2010

Through Chip MacLeod’s leadership role with Celtic organizations and events in northern Nevada, Chip has been a driving force during the last decade to enlighten the public of all things Celtic. He has freely given his time and energy to the success of these organizations and events. During this time, he has served as: President of Reno Celtic Celebration; Commander of the local post of the Scottish American Military Society; Chieftain, Treasurer, and Director on the Nevada Society of Scottish Clans Board of Directors; Treasurer of the Sons and Daughters of Erin; Chair of the Nevada Society of Scottish Clans Robert Burns Celebration; Initiator of Tartan Day celebration in northern Nevada with the Scottish American Military Society, as well as lead organizer of the celebration since its conception.  Through his leadership with these organizations and events, he has been instrumental in giving thousands of people living in northern Nevada opportunities to experience Celtic culture. These opportunities were not only available for people of Celtic decent but were opportunities for the entire community. Such exposure has helped to keep the Celtic culture alive in northern Nevada and has enriched the lives of its people.  Charles MacLeod, a great representative of our Celtic community.


Don Lindsay - 2009

Don Lindsay was born in Camp White, Oregon; the fourth generation of Lindsay's born within 30 miles of the family's original homestead on the Applegate River in southern Oregon.  After his military service Don moved his family to the San Francisco Bay Area and started a 40-year long career in the grocery business. In the late 70's the family moved back to southern Oregon, then found their way to Carson City in 1984.  Since retiring in 2006 Don has devoted his time to supporting the military through Soldiers' Angels, writing an estimated 6,000 cards and letters, and sending an uncounted number of care packages to service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He and his wife, Pat, recently returned from Las Vegas where they processed over 600 Nevada National Guard soldiers for adoption by Soldiers' Angels, also putting together and distributing goodie bags for all. They lend support to military family members at times of bereavement and are ever-present when men and women of the military are either sent off or return from combat areas.


Hugh Lantz - 2008

Hugh Lantz had an impressive background with the San Diego Fire Department, with the U.S. Forest Service, Policeman for the city of Bishop, Sheriff with the Mono County Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff Coroner and serving as President of the Sheriff's Officers Association. After retiring and moving to Nevada, he became a polygraph examiner. In 1992 he was elected a Life Member by the American Polygraph Association. Hugh has been an active member of the northern Nevada community and has been particularly active in areas that demonstrate his love of his Celtic heritage – both Scottish and Irish - having served in the past as Chief of Nevada Society of Scottish Clans and as President of Sons and Daughters of Erin. Hugh has been highly involved in community activities through his church and the Lions Club.  Through the Lions Club he has made trips to Mexico where he distributes eyeglasses to people in impoverished areas. Throughout the years he has opened his home to foreign students and has sponsored foster children. With a twinkle in his eye, he has been ever-present at Celtic events making one and all feel welcome and leaving them with the feeling that each one of them is the most important person in the world to him. 


William F. McConnell - 2007

William McConnell is a long-time Nevada Society of Scottish Clans member, having served as its Chieftain in 1990. He is a familiar face about Reno having spent many years working with the Nevada Opera Association and the Nevada Festival Ballet at the Pioneer Theater.  Bill retired from the Air Force at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In retirement he has been a researcher and writer of early military history of Nevada. His love of military history led him to research some of the early military posts of Nevada, including the Civil War Camp Nye whose exact location had been lost. It was through his research that state officials were able to validate the actual site and erected State Historical Marker 235.  A lifelong Civil War enthusiast, Bill used his experience as a military intelligence officer to bring to life the exploits of Civil War hero and general, Jesse Lee Reno. The book “Remember Reno” was cited as an inspiration for the erection of a statue of General Reno now standing in Powning Park.  On Wednesday, July 12, 2006, Bill was called before the Mayor and Reno City Council and was presented with a Certificate of Adoption into the Reno/Reneau family as a result of “dedication, devotion and contributions to the history of our illustrious kinsman, General Jesse Lee Reno.” The certificate was presented by the Reno City Council on behalf of the Reno/Reneau National Family Reunion.


Jim Galloway - 2006

Jim Galloway, Member of the Washoe County Commission, has service on a long list of other local government entities: Debt Management Commission, Tahoe Conservation District, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Washoe School District Facilities Oversight Board, Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, and the County Senior Citizen Board. Galloway is an engineer with Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctor’s degrees in several fields of Physics.  This proud Scotsman, affiliated with Clan MacFarlane, is known for his dedication to the service of the people, and frequently called the commissioner for the little guy. He has served on the Commission since January, 1997.


Dr. John W. Whitney - 2005

Dr. John W. Whitney is a high-achieving inventor, and founder, Chairman and CEO of the worldwide firm, Itronics. The project that resulted in his choice for the Silver Thistle, is an exotic process that removes silver from the discharge of local waste treatment. It removes virtually all toxic heavy metals, including silver, from photochemicals and converts the residue into environmentally beneficial fertilizers. Whitney’s Scots ancestry is Kellogg-MacDonald.


Carrie Porter - 2004

Carrie Porter, statewide leader in women’s interests, was also chosen from the ranks of NSSC members. A former chief of the Society, she is president of the Nevada Women’s History Project, and worked tirelessly in support of the project to place a statue of Sarah Winnemucca in the U.S. Capitol. She developed the Jean Ford Research Center and is curator of the Special Manuscripts Collection in the UNR Library. Her clan is MacFarlane.


Ronald James - 2003

Ronald James, Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer, author and artist.  Ron James is responsible for making pioneer history available to all Nevadans, young and old. Besides overseeing the physical treasures of the state, Ron has written books on the people who built the human infrastructure – the miners, financiers, teachers, gamblers, prostitutes, writers and assorted characters. In his “spare” time Ron volunteers with programs for Scottish events and plays the bagpipes with the Sierra Highlanders pipe band. Clans Morrison and Galloway.


Dr. James W. Forsythe - 2002

Dr. James W. Forsythe is a physician in private practice, and a former U.S. Army medical officer. He was the first to identify the Fallon leukemia cluster. He founded the oncology units in all the hospitals in Washoe County. Dr. Forsythe has published numerous articles in the field. He retired from the U.S. Army Medical Corps as a Full Colonel with a Commendation Medal for his work. His clan is Forsythe.

Dr. Stephen C. McFarlane - 2001

Dr. Stephen C. McFarlane was named a Foundation Professor of Speech Pathology and Audiology in the University of Nevada School of Medicine in 1995. He served as interim President of the University of Nevada, Reno, from the time of President Joseph Crowley's retirement in 2000 through June 2001. In July 2001, he became Chair of the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology and Vice Dean of the School of Medicine. In October 2001, he became Interim Dean of the School of Medicine, serving until 2004. Dr. McFarlane has written extensively in the field and his books have been translated into many languages for use as textbooks around the world.

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